Constitution of 1868

Congress passed a series of laws known as the Reconstruction Acts in 1867. These laws required the former Confederate states to dissolve existing state governments, register all eligible men (white or African-American) to vote, and then hold conventions to create new state constitutions. To be readmitted to the United States, each state’s constitution had to accept the end of slavery and adopt the 14th amendment, which guaranteed equal rights for all men, regardless of race. Florida’s voters selected delegates to a state constitutional convention in November 1867. The convention met on January 20, 1868, and the new constitution was ratified by the voters the following May.

Constitution of 1868


Section 9. There shall be a county court organized in each county. The Governor shall appoint a county judge for each county, who shall be confirmed by the Senate, and such judge shall hold his office for four years from the date of his commission, or until his successor is appointed and qualified.

Section 10. The county court shall be a court of Oyer and Terminer.

Section 11. The county court shall have jurisdiction of all misdemeanors and all civil cases where the amount in controversy does not exceed three hundred dollars; and its jurisdiction shall be final in all civil cases where the amount in controversy does not exceed one hundred dollars; but in no case shall the county court have jurisdiction when the title or boundaries of real estate is in controversy, or where the jurisdiction will conflict with that of the several courts of record; but they may have co-extensive jurisdiction with the circuit courts in cases of forcible entry and unlawful detention of real estate, subject to appeal to the circuit court. The county court shall have full surrogate or probate powers, but subject to appeal. Provision shall be made by law for all other powers, duties, and responsibilities of the county courts and judges. There shall be a regular trial term of the county courts six times in each year, at such times and places as may be prescribed by law.

Section 12. Grand and petit jurors shall be taken from the registered voters of the respective counties.

Section 13. In all trials, civil and criminal, in the circuit and county courts, the evidence shall be reduced to writing by the clerk of the court or his deputy, under the control of the court; and every witness, after his examination shall have closed, shall be at liberty to correct the evidence he has given, and afterward shall sign the same; such evidence shall be filed in the office of the clerk with the papers in the case.

Section 14. All pleas shall be sworn to either by the parties or their attorneys.

Section 15. The Governor shall appoint as many justices of the peace as he may deem necessary. Justices of the peace shall have criminal jurisdiction and civil jurisdiction not to exceed fifty dollars; but this shall not extend to the trial of any person for misdemeanor or crime. The duties of justices of the peace shall be fixed by law. Justices of the peace shall hold their offices during good behavior, subject to removal by the Governor at his own discretion.

Section 16. The Legislature may establish courts for municipal purposes only, in incorporated towns and cities. All laws for the organization or government of municipal courts shall be general in their provisions, and be equally applicable to the municipal courts of all incorporated towns and cities.

Section 17. Any civil cause may be tried before a practicing attorney as referee, upon the application of the parties, and an order from the court in whose jurisdiction the case may be, authorizing such trial and appointing such referee.